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FILM FANS: 'Frankenweenie' is sweet and creepy all at once

EDITOR'S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the movie of the week: "Frankenweenie." Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

4 out of 4 stars

Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is a loner kid who likes to make monster movies starring his best friend, who is his dog, Sparky. He enjoys playing fetch-the-ball in his backyard with him. His dad, Mr. Ben Frankenstein encourages him to get out and play with the other kids.

Victor decides to join the baseball team and hits an unexpected home run. But the joy of this event is short lived when Sparky chases the ball into the street and gets hit and is killed by a car. Victor is devastated and consumed with grief from the death of Sparky.

At school, Victor's new science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), gives him an idea. He uses this idea to resurrect his dead dog.

As with all monster movies, anytime you bring something back from the dead there is always mayhem and angry villagers to contend with. This movie is in black and white, reminiscent of the old "Frankenstein" horror movie and movies of that genre. Despite that, it is an enjoyable family movie for all ages in keeping with Halloween.

-- Gail Nunez-Blackshear, Lawrenceville

2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

Resurrected from his 1984 animated short by the same name, Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" is now a full-length Disney film featuring the voice credits of Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau.

Young Victor Frankenstein loses his beloved dog Sparky to an automobile accident. Inspired by his creepy new teacher Mr. Ryzkruski, Victor successfully re-animates Sparky by harnessing the power of an electrical storm; complete with neck bolts and sutures, Sparky is just as lovable as before, even though the occasional part falls off of him at times. Victor tries to keep the successful experiment a secret from everyone, but soon his inquisitive schoolmates find out and they figure, hey, why not bring OUR dead pets back to life, too?

"Frankenweenie" pays homage to (and sends up) a number of classic horror and science fiction movies, from the original 1931 "Frankenstein" to "Godzilla," "Jurassic Park" and everything in between, including Burton's earlier works like "Corpse Bride" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas." The animation is superb, and the interaction between Victor and Sparky is poignant. Adults will enjoy the gags and references, but be warned: this is NOT A KIDS' FILM!

-- Tim Weekley, Suwanee

3 out of 4 stars

Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" is dark, quirky, funny and heart-warming. It is presented in stop-motion style, completely in black and white, recalling those flickering horror movies of the thirties and forties (particularly "Frankenstein," of course).

The main character of the film, Victor, tragically loses his precious pet dog Sparky when the energetic pup runs into the street after a baseball and is struck by a car. While in science class at school, Victor's substitute teacher (wonderfully voiced by Martin Landau), demonstrates on a dead frog how muscles can react to electricity, even in death. Victor then decides to try out this theory on the recently interred Sparky; the rest of the movie reveals what happens as a result of Victor's daring experiment.

There is much to enjoy here. Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara give voice to at least six characters between them, each possessing their own unique qualities. Soundtrack composer Danny Elfman takes a more organic approach with this score, replacing his usual computers with real instruments -- he makes great use of soaring strings and booming brass, echoing the drama found in many early black and white horror movies. Burton does a fine job making even the smallest character parts, both human and animal, memorable. You surely won't forget the cat whose droppings predict the future, the finely coiffed pooch who resides next door to Sparky, or the exploding Sea Monkeys.

Overall pacing is brisk (the movie runs under 90 minutes), although some may feel the first transformation sequence to be a little on the long side. The "PG" rating is primarily for several scary moments and violence (probably best to save this one for ages 10 and up, since death is the central theme). If you're looking for an offbeat tale that has a few scares and a lot of heart, give "Frankenweenie" a try.

-- Paul Tate, Sugar Hill